Postscript: FOCUS on the Future

The Cape Fear Economic Development Council (CFEDC) presented a community conversation on “FOCUS: Framework for Our Future,”  April 28, at WHQR Gallery, 254 N. Front St., Suite 300, Wilmington, N.C. During a presentation of the draft plan, attendees had the opportunity to provide input on the plan and learned how to become part of the effort.

Under a federal grant, the FOCUS consortium formed in 2012 to support local government­ efforts to coordinate planning and create a regional plan for sustainable development in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties. For ideas, FOCUS engaged public and elected officials, held more than 40 meetings and received more than 4,000 public comments.

They have developed 10 strategies for moving the region forward, a blueprint for:

  • Leverage regional resources to respond to key challenges
  • Improve opportunities for moving up the economic ladder & closing wage gaps.
  • Address public health issues by providing better access to healthcare, active living environments and healthy food outlets.
  • Connect destinations, workforce and jobs more effectively.
  • Strengthen regional workforce through improved education and training
  • Create  a place-based regional economic development strategy.
  • Create more housing choice and opportunities for everyone.
  • Preserve contiguous areas of open space & protect critical  environmental habitats.
  • Implement a multimodal transportation system and local land use policies while reducing or holding steady vehicle miles of travel (VMT) per capita.
  • Update land development, transportation & infrastructure policies that support complete communities.

Click here to view the PowerPoint presentation from the event.

Want to Get Involved?

There’s three ways to become a part of FOCUS;

  • Supporters: Individual residents of the community who support the Regional Framework for Our Future and is interested in its implementation
  • Partners: Private or non-profit organizations working with the FOCUS Consortium to help implement specific projects, foster communications, and support other activities
  • FOCUS Consortium: An alliance of local governments and other community organizations that is the driving force of regional collaboration and implementation of the Regional Framework for Our Future

To participate, email

About the Data

FOCUS has made all of their data available to community organizations to use in grant applications for funding public/private projects that move the 10 strategies forward. To learn more about the organization and to access their data, go to their Web site.

Webinar on Living Wage Opportunities for Businesses in North Carolina

Please join the North Carolina Business Council, the American Sustainable Business Council, the North Carolina Justice Center and Cape Fear EDC for a webinar on Living Wage Opportunities for Businesses in North Carolina on March 18th from 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM.

In North Carolina there are a number of organizations and communities who are considering both state and local level efforts to ensure that workers can earn enough to support their families.

In this webinar hosted by the NC Business Council and the NC Justice Center, we will share information about living wage issues and campaigns in North Carolina, practical tools for business leader engagement, and living wage success stories from Asheville, NC and across the country. Speakers from Just Economics in Asheville, NC and Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage will present.

If you are a business owner looking to learn more about making living wages a part of your business, or if you are interested in supporting the emergence of local living wage work, this webinar is for you.


For more information contact Ethan Case of the North Carolina Business Council at  


CFEDC Meet and Greet: “Cocktails and Community”

When: Thursday October 9, 2014 from 6 PM
Where: Satellite Bar and Lounge, 120 Greenfield St, Wilmington, NC 28401

Enjoy a social visit with the Board and friends of Cape Fear Economic Development Council. We will break with tradition, as we do about once a year, by hosting this social occasion solely for the purpose of meeting more like minded people and hearing input and ideas. Cape Fear EDC is in the process of planning our agenda for the coming year. We would enjoy meeting you and being inspired by your bright new insights. Several seats are open on the CFEDC board, and nominations are welcome.

There will be no speakers, no panelists and there is no particular agenda — the kind of meeting we could all use more of.

Cash bar will be available. No need to RSVP, but if you would socialize this event and invite your friends, share the Event on Facebook!

Postscript: Pathways to Prosperity

The Cape Fear Economic Development Council convened a meeting of economic development leaders in Wilmington to continue a discussion they’d had on stage at the “Special Sauce” Power Breakfast put on by the Wilmington Business Journal in March, but with a particular focus on execution.

The purpose of the event was to translate the Garner Economics “Pathways to Prosperity” report into action items that regional economic development (ED) groups can work on together. The report, which was prepared at the request of the New Hanover County Commissioners, represents a three part plan for retooling our regional approach to economic development
Improve execution (i.e. create a county staff role with responsibility for economic development)
Improve product (i.e. set aside sustainable funding for county economic development efforts)
Communicate / market (i.e. appoint local business people as brand ambassadors).

Panelists were asked to identify up to three priorities from the report that their organization views as consistent with its vision/mission, achievable, and an opportunity for collaboration with other regional ED organizations.

The Pathways report development process began with comprehensive information gathering, including focus groups. This process revealed:
A public perception that there are too many economic development organizations (unclear who is responsible for certain functions),
A lack of regional cooperation and coordination
An atypical level of ignorance among stakeholders and the public in our region about the ED process.

CFEDC believes these problems need to be addressed before the public and stakeholders will be able to digest the report recommendations. Out of the 21 report recommendations, panelists identified the following as opportunities for collaboration:
Three county alliance
Support small and new businesses
Fund economic development infrastructure
Be involved in trade shows, site consultants for the three county area
Promote manufacturing
Create more infrastructure for potential sites (421, e.g.)
Modify the Special Use Permit (SUP)
Build infrastructure for potential sites
Education about the economic development process
Broadening to a regional focus
Survey of target industries
Leadership from the private sector / business leadership (e.g., junior city council)
Coordination among different organizations
Broad coalition of venture funding for the region
Capitalizing on “place”
Mitigating vitriol and promoting cooperation

Moderator Rachel Lewis Hilburn helped the panelists and audience arrive at a consensus on the three most actionable priorities:

Three county marketing alliance
Leadership, especially in the private sector
Infrastructure for potential sites

Item 1, the three county marketing alliance, is complicated by the facts that 1) New Hanover and Pender counties have no accountable office of economic development, and outsource this function to a private company, Wilmington Business Development, and 2) Brunswick and Pender counties have very different assets and are already heavily invested in their own ED / marketing strategy by funding a full time ED group that is fully accountable to county government.

Item 2, private sector leadership, is expressed as a response to an identified public sector leadership vacuum. Pathways recommends that the business sector step up and lead the charge. CFEDC agrees.

Item 3, infrastructure for sites, clearly needs more discussion, and may very well be where New Hanover has to make a very tough decision. Some panelists implied that they interpret the Pathways recommendation to expand infrastructure to potential sites as an endorsement of continuing New Hanover County’s old industrial recruitment approach. CFEDC believes it is important for the public to be aware that the Pathways report recommends many actions and several very specific industrial targets, but it but does not recommend doubling down on intensive industry. Specific industry targets are named in the report, and none are intensive. In this context, the word industry should bring to mind biotech, pharma, aircraft, medical devices and so on rather than limestone mines and smokestacks.

In this time of scarce resources, we need to make difficult decisions about resource allocation. The public and stakeholders should educate themselves (read at least the summary slides Jay Garner presented about the report at so that they are able to hold our elected officials and public servants accountable. Otherwise, we could see absolutely no resources allocated to the report recommendations, while the report is misrepresented as a call to expand intensive (polluting / natural resource hungry) industries instead of the ones that careful study reveals as the best fit and the most likely to pay off.

Audience questions during the Q&A period of this event revealed that the public is concerned about preserving quality of place, since it has been an important part of attracting and retaining many residents and business. This public focus on quality of place and quality of life may have been perceived by Garner and by some stakeholders as ignorance about the process, when in reality this is a perfectly rational focus for the public. We cannot expect the public to be experts in the process, but it is reasonable for the public to demand that the process be consistent with their vision of the region now and in the future.

CFEDC Presents: Pathways to Prosperity: Translating the Garner Report into Action Items, April 22nd

When: Tuesday April 22, 6 PM
Where: WHQR Galler, 254 N Front Street, Third Floor (downtown Wilmington)

The recent “Pathways to Prosperity” report presented by Garner Economics at the request of the New Hanover County Commissioners provided several recommendations for retooling our regional approach to economic development. The recommendations were summarized as part of a three part plan: Improve Execution (i.e. create a county staff role with responsibility for economic development), Improve Product (i.e. set aside sustainable funding for county economic development efforts). and Communicate / Market (i.e. appoint local business people as brand ambassadors).

Shortly after a draft copy of the report reached the public, a panel discussion at the Greater Wilmington Business Journal Power Breakfast event entitled “Special Sauce” briefly discussed highlights of the draft report in an effort to help identify a path forward for the region. Much of the discussion turned on the topic of the conflicting recommendations in the report to refine AND eliminate New Hanover County’s Special User Permit (SUP) ordinance. By the end of the discussion, however, it was clear that groups normally seen as competing agreed more often than not. As a result, panelists set themselves a challenge: set aside differences, seek out common interests and find ways to collaborate on reaching our regional economic development goals.

Cape Fear Economic Development Council is pleased to invite “Special Sauce” panelists to join a dialog about collaboration on achieving goals set out in the Pathways to Prosperity report:

Jim Bradshaw, Executive Director of Brunswick County Economic Development
Hal Kitchin, 2013 Chairman of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Board
Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development
Robin Spinks, Vice Chair of The Coalition for Economic Advancement
This event is part of the organization’s bimonthly “CFEDC Presents” series. The CFEDC is a non-profit organization working to fulfill the need for leadership in sustainable economic development and job creation in Wilmington and the Cape Fear region.

As always, attendance is free, and all are welcome. Join us at 6 PM for a beverage; and the discussion will begin by 6:15 PM.